The following Statement was made on Monday 13 July in the House of Commons.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on our preparations for the end of the transition period.
On 31 January this year, the United Kingdom left the European Union, and last month we confirmed to our European Union partners that there would be no extension of the transition period beyond 31 December. My counterpart as co-chair of the Joint Committee confirmed that this marked ‘a definite conclusion’ to the matter, and the deadline for extension has now passed. As a consequence, from 1 January 2021 we will embark on the next chapter in our history as a fully independent United Kingdom. With control of our economy, we can continue to put in place the right measures for Covid recovery. With control over the money that we send to Brussels, we can spend it on our priorities—investing in the NHS, spreading opportunity more equally across the UK, and strengthening our union. We are also able to build a trading relationship with our neighbours in Europe that serves all our interests, while also developing new economic partnerships across the world, including opportunities for new and better trade deals with the US, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and many other nations.
The deal the Prime Minister struck last year, which the country backed in the general election, means that we can look forward with confidence to the end of the transition period on 31 December, but of course there is still work to do to prepare. Regardless of the outcome of negotiations with the EU over our future relationship, whether or not we have a Canada-style deal or an Australian model, we will be leaving the single market and the customs union. This will herald changes, and significant opportunities, for which we all need to prepare —government, business and individual citizens.
So I am announcing today two significant new initiatives that will bring financial support, further clarity, and reassurance for business and citizens. We are launching a major new public information campaign to make sure that everyone has the facts they need about the actions that we all need to take in order to be ready. We are also releasing for the first time an operating model for the border that will benefit importers and exporters, and provide information to hauliers, shippers, freight companies and our customs intermediaries. This comprehensive guidance covers every processing system used across all government departments and has been developed after extensive consultation with industry partners, operators and, of course, the devolved Administrations. Together with the additional £705 million package of funding for border infrastructure, extra jobs and better technology, this will help to ensure that our new borders will be ready when the UK takes back control on January. It will assist the smooth movement of goods, and it will also help us to lay the foundations for the world’s most effective border by 2025, making our country more secure and our citizens safer.
Turning to the detail of these initiatives, the public information campaign—The UK’s New Start: Let’s Get Going—will run in the four home nations and internationally, encouraging us all to play our part in preparing for change. The campaign will be supplemented by the deployment of experts in the field, giving one-to-one support to businesses and their supply chains to ensure that they have made arrangements that will help to keep their operations running efficiently.
From January 2021, in order to fulfil the import process, traders will need to have a GB economic operators registration and identification—EORI—number before moving their goods. They will need to have the commodity codes of their goods, which will be needed to make a customs declaration and, of course, to calculate duties on an import. They will need to know the customs values of their goods, the rules of which are based on the World Trade Organization valuation agreement. They will also need to have considered whether they are able to use, and would benefit from using, any of the available simplifications or facilitations, including deferring customs declarations for standard goods. Traders who choose not to defer their customs declarations will also need to ensure that they have considered how they will make those declarations to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs systems, and, of course, whether or not they will use an intermediary. From January 2021, traders who are exporting goods to the EU will need to make export declarations and ensure that they have the right certificates and licences required for entry. While there is still work to do, substantial progress has been made to ensure that we all fulfil our promise to the British people and take back control.
The freedom to control our own borders brings many benefits. Our plans mean that we can introduce a migration policy that ensures that we are open to the world’s best talent, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has set out further details of that today. A new, points-based immigration system will ensure that we can attract the scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs who can power future economic growth. It will also help us to ensure that our NHS attracts the very best professionals from around the world to our hospitals. The new technology that we are introducing will allow us to monitor with far greater precision exactly who and what is coming into and out of our country, enabling us to deal more effectively with organised crime and other threats.
Control of our borders also means that we can choose the right trade and commercial policies for this country. The border operating model that we have published today provides clarity about the end-to-end journey of goods on the move between Great Britain and the EU, including information about controlled goods and the new government systems that will support future trade. I place on record the Government’s gratitude to the border sector for the practical knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise it has brought to the development of the operating model, which is the result of extensive consultation and collaboration.
It is important to note that, as the document makes clear, the border operating model does not cover matters relating specifically to the Northern Ireland protocol. I reassure the House that guidance specific to Northern Ireland will be published in the coming weeks and on an ongoing basis throughout the transition period.
With autonomy comes the freedom to be practical and pragmatic in implementation, which is why, in the light of coronavirus and to give business and industry more time to adjust, we announced last month that border controls would be introduced in three stages up to 1 July 2021. In the first phase, from January 2021, traders importing standard goods will need to prepare for basic customs requirements. Full customs declarations will be needed for controlled and excise goods—such as alcohol and tobacco products—but people importing standard goods will have up to six months to make their declaration and to pay tariffs. Traders moving goods using the common transit convention will need to follow all the transit procedures.
In the second phase, from April 2021, we will require all products of animal origin, regulated plants and plant products to have pre-notification and the relevant health documentation. Any physical checks will continue to be conducted at the point of destination.
In the third and final phase, from July 2021, traders moving all goods will have to make full customs declarations at the point of importation and, of course, pay relevant tariffs. Checks for animals, plants and their products will take place at border control posts in Great Britain.
When we announced our approach to controls last month, we also confirmed that we would be building new border facilities in Great Britain to carry out the required checks, as well as providing targeted support to ports to build new infrastructure. The £705 million funding injection that we announced yesterday is on top of an already announced £84 million grant to ensure sufficient capacity in the customs intermediary sector. That money will be used to do just that: to prepare our border infrastructure for all the changes by improving and developing IT systems, recruiting more personnel and building new border posts.
The actions that we are taking today are an important step towards readiness for the new opportunities that Brexit can bring. It is time for our new start—time for us to embrace a new global destiny—and therefore I commend the Statement to the House.”
My Lords, this Statement in fact sets out an enormous number of costs—costs to Parliament, to business, to taxpayers and to consumers.
First, on the cost to Parliament, we learned of these plans on Sunday, via Written Statements and in the Telegraph, rather than in Parliament. So it is not just York that awaits your Lordships’ House; Coventry is clearly being prepared for both Houses. The devolved nations hardly fare better, despite their responsibility for ports, airports, and human, animal and plant health. The First Minister complained of a lack of engagement with the Scottish Government in developing the new border operating model, and the Welsh Government at one point had mere minutes’ notice of an announcement within their bailiwick. That is no way to treat Parliament.
Secondly, on the costs to business, despite the promise of a deal with no fees, charges or tariffs and no new infrastructure, we in fact face significant disruption to trade from new border checks. This will cost business some £13 billion, let alone any loss of orders and increased import costs, in order to handle 200 million declarations a year. There is real alarm at the state of preparedness across businesses, which are already coping with Covid but have their wall diaries all pointing to the rapidly approaching 31 December. All they are promised is a welter of new red tape.
Thirdly, there will be a cost to taxpayers of £700 million for buildings and staff at borders, including new infrastructure, some at new inland sites. If the ports are not ready in time, any failures could break WTO rules, as we have heard from a Cabinet Minister. There are to be 500 extra Border Force personnel; an IT system not yet tested, let alone introduced; a 27-acre parking lot in Kent bought through emergency purchase of land, the Government having forgotten to tell the local council and, we hear, having to hastily hand-deliver letters to residents on a Friday ahead of work beginning on Monday; and an advertising campaign. We must hope that this will be more successful than the £46 million spent on “Get ready for Brexit”, which the National Audit Office found did not result in significantly better preparedness.
The NAO says that any future campaign should focus on what impact is needed and how behaviour change will be delivered, with resources targeted at activities adding the best value, and a consistent focus on key performance metrics from the start. Can the Minister confirm that lessons have been learned from that earlier exercise—or will just friends of those in the know be used for the campaign, without proper procurement, their USP being more in shared belief than proven campaign ability?
Fourthly and lastly, there is the cost to consumers. I have to say that the Statement’s talk of “significant opportunities” is particularly inappropriate for consumers. As the guidance makes clear, there will be extra documents for travelling, including an international driving permit for some countries; a return to the old green card, or proof of insurance; arrangements for pets needed four months before travel; and continuing confusion around which travel rights will continue. The Government, probably quite rightly, are advising people to get comprehensive travel insurance—more cost to consumers. Of course, there will be much more expensive medical insurance with the loss of the EHIC, especially—I declare an interest—for us oldies, or for those with pre-existing conditions. For consumers it will be all costs and no benefits.
There is no doubt that there was support across the country to get Brexit done, but the Government’s approach has been costly, reckless and disdainful of the views of constituent parts of the UK, of business and of consumers. We see symptoms of chaos and some dysfunction even within the Cabinet. Mr Gove wrote on Sunday:
“Leaving the European Union … is a bit like moving house … Taking back control of the money we send to Brussels means we can spend it on our priorities”.
I have to say that it feels more like a messy divorce, with cash going to lawyers and removal men rather than on the kids.
I have four questions for the Minister. The first is about the advertising campaign I have already mentioned. The second is to ask for reassurance that business will be engaged every step of the way in the design and implementation of IT and documentation systems, and that the devolved authorities will be part of the planning, not mere recipients of information. The third is whether consumer representatives will be similarly consulted. The fourth and last, still in hope, is whether the Government will return to the democratic process of making announcements in Parliament, rather than in Sunday newspapers. Let us have Parliament take back control.
My Lords, the Government are seeking to put an upbeat gloss on the plans for 1 January, under the strapline, “The UK’s new start: let’s get going”, but getting going anywhere is set to be a very big challenge for both people and businesses. Individuals will lose their free movement, free roaming, free healthcare and freedom to take a pet on holiday abroad at short notice. The Government claim that leaving the EU single market and customs union means that we will,
“regain our political and economic independence.”
It is in fact going to feel like “out of control” rather than “taking back control”.
In the other place on Monday Mr Gove promised
“a free flow of freight”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/20; col. 1275.]
but nothing could be further from the truth. The UK will be moving from a highly integrated relationship with the EU to one in which trading with it becomes much more difficult. There will be customs forms, physical checks, new VAT rules, plant and animal health requirements, export declarations, a lorry park, and a vast new IT system—always a terrifying prospect. This is going to hit businesses struggling with the disruption and economic hit of Covid; perhaps they might just be getting their heads above water by December, at which point they will get hit by the Exocet of masses of expensive new red tape.
The Government have left it until 24 weeks before the end of transition to produce this plan. What have they actually done for the last four years? One sensible move would, of course, have been to extend the transition period, so as to avoid distraction from the pressing issue of dealing with the pandemic, but Brexit ideology, as always, trumped good sense. The complexity facing businesses can be judged by the fact that this government document comprises a dense 200 pages. As the Trade Secretary rightly highlighted in her striking letter of last week, the controls, IT systems and lorry parks will not be ready by the end of the year. This is the real reason they are being phased in over six months. Are we seriously to believe they will be ready by July next year?
Ms Truss urged
“it is essential that my department has a clear view of operation delivery plans, timescales and risks going forward.”
This suggests that the Trade Secretary has not been fully involved in plans for imports and exports. Can the Minister explain this extraordinary state of affairs? Ms Truss also pointed out that if, as predicted, the dual-tariff system is not in place for 1 January
“this may call into question NI’s place in the UK’s customs territory”.
What substantive reassurances can the Minister give us—and, more to the point, the people of Northern Ireland —on this point?
This Brexit burden will force companies to fill in an extra 215 million customs declarations every year, which Mr Gove’s document acknowledged were “complicated”. The cost for them is estimated at between £7 billion and £13 billion a year; this is on top of huge costs for the public sector. So this is where “our money back” will be going—not on the NHS, but on bureaucracy. Many firms will face the expense of hiring customs agents to complete new border formalities on their behalf. It is estimated that 50,000 of these will be needed, a figure that dwarfs the number of officials in the demonised European Commission.
The Trade Secretary, in her letter to Messrs Gove and Sunak, was worried about tariffs being dodged and asked for
“assurances that we are able to deliver full controls at these ports”—
that is, EU-facing ports—
“by July 2021 and that plans are in place from January to mitigate the risk of goods being circumvented from ports implementing full controls.”
What she is talking about, of course, is the risk of smuggling and fraud; this is an astonishing admission, so what is the answer to how these risks will be addressed?
It is clear for all to see that the promises of “frictionless trade” and “an oven-ready deal” were mere empty slogans. We are seeing what my honourable friend in the other place, Stephen Farry MP, called
“the brutal reality of Brexit”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/20; col. 1279.]
It is no comfort at all for some of us to say, “We told you so.”
My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for their welcome for the Statement made by my right honourable friend—with modified degrees of rapture, I must confess to the House, but I always benefit from their comments and, as ever, I will try to listen and learn from them. However, I shall say one thing as a premise—I think the noble Baroness will know that I am going to say it, but I make no apology for it because it was reasserted by the British people last December. The British people twice made a very firm declaration that they wish to go forward as a sovereign nation outside the European Union, and did so in full knowledge of the circumstances that would obtain. No one in this House or in this polity can assert that, over four years of debate on the question of leaving the European Union, any question was not unearthed in that time. The British people resoundingly reasserted their verdict last December, and this Government intend to implement, and are implementing, that. I believe that that is the inescapable, underlying point which we never hear from the other side.
On costs, of course the Statement acknowledges that there will be elements of cost. The Government do not accept the cost estimates that both noble Baronesses referred to, and indeed it has become clear that some of those who made the calculations did so on the basis that every document would be filled in manually. That is not the case; we are moving to a new, modern, smart border.
I make no apologies for the additional expenditure which the Government are undertaking to secure our borders and provide a modern, effective border. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, made the point very powerfully—and I agreed with it—that we need to have an eye to smuggling, the abuse of modern slavery, and so on. Part of this package is employing more Border Force operatives and indeed investing in new facilities and IT and opportunities for Border Force to control more effectively our borders and operate against crime. I believe that that is important. The whole £705 million package which has been announced will serve this country well and will be welcomed by most of those involved.
Another point that did not come out in the statements from the noble Baronesses opposite is the welcome that British business has given to the publication of the border operating model. This model was not sprung on business, as was implied, but is the result of lengthy, ongoing discussions and previous documents and conversations, and it reflects the wisdom of many business sectors and operatives. That is why it has had the welcome it has had. Again, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made it clear that there was further material— “i”s to dot and “t”s to cross was I think the phrase he used—and I can assure the House that those conversations and that engagement will continue with business in every part of this United Kingdom.
Although border control is a reserved matter, I refute the view that the devolved Administrations are not appropriately engaged. Obviously, I am always concerned when I hear that there is dissatisfaction about that and I take that back, but I can assure the House that efforts are constantly made, and indeed that engagement takes place on a regular basis and will continue to do so.
On the advertising campaign, which both noble Baronesses asked about, again, there has been a very wide welcome for this. Again, the Government make no apology for undertaking this campaign and committing extensive resources to it. It is important that business and consumers and the people of this country should be fully ready and aware. The noble Baroness rightly referred to the importance of consumers, and I can assure her that an eye will always be held to the views of consumer groups. However, I can also specifically answer her question on the NAO recommendations. She makes an important point and those recommendations have been taken on board by the Government. There will be staged monitoring of the effectiveness of the campaign and it will adhere to the proper requirements of government advertising. I give her that assurance in the House; I hope that is sufficient, but if she would like me to provide further details, I should be happy to do so, because it is a valid point and I fully take it on board.
The noble Baroness asked about business engagement, and I hope I have answered that. It is not something that suddenly started or will suddenly stop. Business engagement will continue as the process develops over the next few months. I am sorry that the noble Baroness feels what she said about Parliament. I think she knows that I have a profound respect for Parliament, particularly having spent most of my life on the Back Benches and never expecting to be standing at the Dispatch Box. As I understand it, the normal courtesies were followed with the Statement at the other end but, if they were not, I will look into the matter. However, my own view is that the fullest co-operation with opposition parties, and indeed with those of no party, is the best way to get Parliament and this revising House to work at their best.
I think that that covers most of the points that the noble Baroness raised. I do not accept this stuff about a lorry park. Work is ongoing in terms of what kind of infrastructure and facility will be required, not only behind the Dover Straits or in co-operation with the Dover Straits crossing but with other ports in the land. Those consultations are ongoing and the Government intend to provide such support as is needed to ensure that there is the fullest and freest flow of trade everywhere. I can assure the House that other ports, not just in the south-east, are taken care of. I note what the noble Baroness said about my right honourable friend’s contact with local MPs in Kent, and I believe that that represents accurately that those conversations will be taking place.
On the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, she will know that, with the greatest respect, I diverge from her just a little on both the past history and the present analysis. As she knows, it is not the normal custom for this Government, or any Government, to comment on leaked documents, so I cannot pursue her into a detailed parsing of the letter that she has in her hands. She will know, because until recently the Liberal Democrats were also a party of government, that there is constant give and take within government. There is conversation within and outside government. That is how best policy is formulated, and the policy which is on the table and which I present to the House is the collective, agreed and actively supported policy of Her Majesty’s Government.
On Northern Ireland, which the noble Baroness raised, she will know that the union is close to my heart personally and, indeed to that of my principal, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The border operating model obviously does not apply specifically to Northern Ireland, but a document will be published later this month that will refer to and cover the situation in Northern Ireland. Yes, I can confirm that there is a supported programme to secure intermediaries and customs agents: we have discussed that in the House before. Again, I make no apology for that support and expenditure; it is important to secure the modern and effective borders that we need.
There are great opportunities here not always mentioned by those on the other side. In future, I am certain that, with the help being offered through the operating model and the advertising, our exporters will be ready to take advantage of new free trade agreements that we are negotiating with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Our small businesses will be ready to grow as we regulate our own industries in a way that works for them. Our economy will be ready to attract the best and brightest from around the world as we introduce a new points-based immigration system, and our fishermen, God bless them—fisherfolk —will be ready to flourish as we again take control of our coastal waters. We are ready for the opportunities in front of us and I believe that this Statement carries those forward.
Can the Minister confirm that the sums referred to by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are sufficient to ensure the free flow of goods through UK customs? If not, perhaps they could be increased. I also ask my noble friend to urge Mr David Frost to insist to Mr Barnier that the EU pays at least 50% of all the UK’s costs in setting up these customs facilities. These arrangements are only for the convenience of the EU; after all, the rest of the world already has adequate arrangements. The EU has a £90 billion surplus in traded goods with the UK; it should contribute to the cost of setting up something so advantageous to itself.
My noble friend has been an indefatigable fighter for the independence of the United Kingdom from the European Union, so I fully understand the direction from which he is coming. He makes an interesting point. Whether, if I sent him into bat as our negotiator, it would improve the temper of Monsieur Barnier, I am not sure, but I am grateful for his comments.
My Lords, naturally, I must, because of the time limit, restrict my questions on Northern Ireland and internal trade within the United Kingdom. First, on trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, there is great concern among business and trade unions: what does unfettered trade with Great Britain mean? Can the Government urgently clarify this question for the people of Northern Ireland? As for trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, we accept that there will be new administrative costs. This will hurt the people of Northern Ireland; it will increase their costs as well. Will the Government consider a contribution towards those extra costs? Finally, if there is no agreement during this transition period, will the European Union require neighbouring nations to apply tariffs to United Kingdom trade to those countries?
My Lords, on the first question, unfettered access from Northern Ireland to Great Britain is a fundamental core of the Government’s objectives, and I hope that will be reiterated in and around the documents I referred to, coming out later this month. As for some of the costs going over, particularly in relation to agri-foods, which, as the noble Lord will know, raise particular issues, we have discussed this, and the Government will be making a contribution on those elements. On his wider point about the EU, I never comment on EU policy. It is still our hope that we will get a free trade agreement.
My Lords, most larger businesses will have the personnel and resources to advise and steer them through the transition period. However, some SMEs are very worried about how they will navigate complex regulations with little support. One feature of the lockdown is that it has often been impossible to speak to an adviser on a helpline and people have been directed to websites that are difficult to use. Can the Minister assure the House that there will be sufficient resources, including helplines staffed by knowledgeable people who can help SMEs as they go through this process?
My Lords, unfortunately, I could not hear absolutely clearly. I will say, first, that the advertising campaign will certainly be directed to both businesses and individuals. The right reverend Prelate makes the wise point that specialist advisers will be available to help; it will not be simply a question of looking at a website, although I think the government website is to be commended.
My Lords, the Statement says that the guidance for Northern Ireland is to be published
“in the coming weeks and on an ongoing basis throughout the transition period”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/20; col. 1270.]
We heard a bit from the Minister about “in the coming weeks”, but it is clear that Northern Ireland is far from being in the same position as the rest of the UK. Is it really the case that Northern Ireland business could be receiving vital guidance in December, as the wording of the Statement implies, and will Northern Ireland be able to take full advantage of the phased approach outlined in the Statement, given the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol?
My Lords, the noble Earl rightly says that Northern Ireland is on a separate track and governed by a separate protocol. Discussions are ongoing, as I think he knows. There will, as I told the House, be further information later this month. I take note of the points he makes about the timescale. The Government are well aware of the need for clarity and proper dispatch in carrying this forward.
What preparation has been made for 1 January 2021, when the UK will be out of RASFF, the rapid alert system for food and feed? Only EU members and EEA states, along with Switzerland, can receive the alerts—up to 10 a day in real time on major safety issues. What is the Government’s plan? The system started in only 1979, so there is nothing from the past to fall back on.
My Lords, on 27 February a noble Lord, Lord True—I believe it was the same one—was asked in the House about concerns that there would be friction for business in imports and exports. He said that the Government hoped that any friction
“will be minimal or non-existent”.—[Official Report, 27/2/20; col. 286.]
Now that we know that 150,000 companies are likely to have over £200 million in export declarations, why does he believe that that noble Lord, Lord True, was so wrong? If the Minister does not accept the HMRC assessment of business costs—his own document says that HMRC is responsible for business trade data—what is the Government’s information on the business costs of the procedures they are now putting in place?
My Lords, I acknowledged in my response that there will be costs. I repeat what I said in the past —it is always pleasant to be reminded: the Government’s intention is that those be minimal. In the case mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, access from NI to GB should be unfettered. I have given a reason why we do not accept the high end-costs which have been suggested, and I stand by it.
My Lords, does my noble friend notice any correlation between those who always accuse us of rushing ahead with Brexit and those who now say we are preparing far too slowly? It baffles me. Much more seriously, has he noticed the recent Centre for Social Justice report which estimates that there are more than 100,000 modern-day slaves in this country? It is an appalling, terrifying figure. Will he join me—I hope the whole House will do so—in welcoming the fact that Brexit will give us not only control over our borders but the tools to help us deal with this evil of modern-day slavery and human trafficking?
My Lords, I have noticed some of the correlations to which my noble friend referred, but I will take the more important point he raised. I have indeed seen the Centre for Social Justice report he refers to. This is a profound evil and a profound scandal and, as I think I said in my opening remarks, the Government’s hope and intention is that having control of our borders will enable us to deal with these brutal criminal gangs more effectively.
My Lords, is the Minister mindful that the stricter the conditions imposed on those entering the UK, the harder it will be, reciprocally, for UK workers to operate in our all-important service industries in trading with Europe, our closest neighbour? Whether Canada-style or the Australia model, it will be a disaster for our services trade with Europe if the restrictive commitments of Mode 4 are applied without an appropriate mobility framework. What steps are the Government taking to effect such a deal?
My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the EU Environment Sub-Committee. We have recently had a number of meetings with Northern Ireland stakeholders, and I am going to refer to a letter we received recently from the Northern Ireland Assembly, raising a number of concerns. I will be brief, but if the Minister cannot deal with all of them, I would appreciate a response in writing.
On EU approval of ports and airports as border control posts, the committee is aware of the need for ports and airports to submit detailed applications to the EU in order to be designated as border control posts. These are needed to check goods arriving from the GB’s jurisdiction. So, the worry is the amount of time that is going to take and whether the Government feel confident about that being dealt with. Designation of goods at risk is another concern, but I am going to focus on the volume of work to be carried out by departments, committees and the Assembly. The committee has been briefed by the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and his officials on the volume of work required to implement the protocol by the end of the transition period. The department has shared information on what it considers necessary to deliver a minimum viable product by 31 December. Much of that MVP will require legislation being made in the Northern Ireland Assembly alongside UK government departments. Can the Minister be confident there is enough time for this to be done by 31 December, that the lines of communication with the stakeholders in Northern Ireland are open and ready for action, and that the document due later this month will deal with many of these issues?
My Lords, the Minister said in his reply to the Front Benchers that no question has gone unanswered over the past four years. Yet, as we have heard from the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, among others, the Statement still provides no guidance to Northern Ireland business on the border operating model relating to the Northern Ireland protocol. We know, however, that customs security and transit forms will now be required on all goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland. So, can the Minister explain to the House why the Prime Minister claimed during the election that such forms would not be required when he must have known it was not true and was never going to be true, as the Government have now confirmed?
My Lords, I again repeat that a further document will be published, but our proposals will deliver to NI businesses unfettered access to the whole UK market. We will ensure no tariffs on goods remaining within the UK customs territory. We will uphold our obligations without any new customs infrastructure and we will guarantee that Northern Ireland businesses benefit from new United Kingdom free trade agreements.
My Lords, the UK leaving the European Union provides some fantastic opportunities for this country to build on our manufacturing prowess. Can the Minister outline what progress has been made towards a trade deal that protects and enhances the future of the UK automotive industry?
My Lords, significant progress has been and is being made, and some of the dire forecasts for that great industry, which is vital to our future, have not proven justified. So, I can assure the House, and I hope that I or my colleagues can bring to the House, further and continuing good news about free trade agreements.
My Lords, this guidance has been developed in consultation with the devolved Administrations and British businesses. Can the EU therefore be confident that goods shipped from, say, Zeebrugge to ports in either England or Scotland, or from Northern Ireland to either country when the protocols are in place, will be subject to identical checks in all regions of the UK—checks that will not be varied by the devolved Administrations?
I checked, and Dublin Port has spent €30 million in preparation for the new arrangements after the European Union loses the United Kingdom. I decided to check the other side of the Irish Sea: Holyhead. I phoned a number of people this morning. I asked a couple of the councils, the freight line and a couple of councillors, “What’s happening in Holyhead? Dublin has spent €30 million.” They said, “We haven’t done anything yet.” With just 20 weeks to go, will the Port of Holyhead and the other ports be ready for the new arrangements?
My Lords, as the House knows, the arrangements will be phased in until summer next year. We have announced £470 million to build port and inland infrastructure. As I told the House, that will be in relation not just to the Dover Strait. I have said in the House before that we recognise the great importance of Holyhead. I assure the noble Lord that we will pursue that matter.
My Lords, could the Minister clarify his reference to lorry parks, especially in Kent? There is great local concern there. Will he confirm that if there is to be a lorry park in Ashford it will be only temporary? More specifically, what have the Government worked out as the likely time it will take to clear an HGV arriving in Dover, either at the Port of Dover or in a car park nearby, under the new arrangements that will come fully into force in July?
My Lords, as I think I said earlier, the specific places for the inland infrastructure are still under discussion, as are the specifics about the site in Kent. However, the purpose of this is to achieve what the noble Lord asks for. A good deal of stuff can be done away from the immediate border so that trade can be processed as quickly as possible. I will not give a specific time in minutes or seconds for any particular activity, but the Government’s objective is to make it as swift, easy and effective as possible.